Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Chicken Stock

I’m a big fan of trying to get the most out of any food we buy or grow, especially with meat, where we tend to pay a bit extra for an animal that’s been raised well and treated humanely.

Chicken stock is hardly a difficult thing to make and I’m sure it’s well known to most who enjoy cooking but I found it a bit of a revelation how easy and how satisfying a process it is when I first stopped relying on stock cubes, gives your recipes and sauces a much smoother taste too.

I usually make a batch the day after a roast bird, apparently you get a cleaner flavour using raw bones but who has the time to bone a raw chicken when it’s so much easier once roast?

We usually just have the breasts for our roast, as there’s only two of us so the first stage is to remove the remaining meat.

If you have a small pan you can always lop the main carcass into four with a cleaver, I have a large enough pan to just throw it all in

Then add the veg, the holy trinity of stock is onion, celery and carrot, roughly diced, you can add herbs and aromatics but I stick to the basics, extra flavours can be added to the actual dishes you use the stock for

Throw that in the pan too, and cover with water.

You then need to simmer, I always cover with a tight fitting lid and put it on the lowest gas setting on the smallest gas ring. If you have a wok burner you can use the mini-ring in the middle, that way you can simmer overnight without any risk of boiling dry.

I usually leave for about four hours although this batch was done overnight, the smell that wafts out when you remove the lid is delicious and if you have any cats, it will drive them nuts.

Once well simmered, the veg should be falling apart and the liquid taking on some colour

If you have any scum forming on the top, skim it off at this point, there wasn’t any on this batch.

You then need to sieve before reducing, a colander or coarse sive won’t get our enough of the solid particles, which could sour your stock so best use a muslin square, once sieved you get a feel for how much it needs reducing, the colour should be a golden to dark brown, witch some fat visible on the surface, starting to form a skin.

Then reduce, a lot of the recipe say by half but I try to get it down as far as possible before you risk burning as you can always dilute if they go too strong, this batch went down to about 1/5. Once reduced you can pour into bottles or jars, it can go quite jellified once refrigerated so don;t use anything with a narrow neck or you’ll never get it out. If you use jars or battles with a pop up lid, like I do, leave 5-10mm gap at the top and fill with liquid when still boiling hot, that will allow the top to pop in.

Then let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating. The fat will sit of top and then solidify in the refrigerator, this may not look very appetising but it means it can easily be skimmed off before use. If it’s deep enough it will also help seal the jar and preserve the stock by preventing contact with the air.

See, much easier than crumbling a stock cube!

Sausage Making

Making my own sausages is one of those easy-once-you-know-how kitchen skills that’s so much more satisfying than buying ready made, and they always seem to taste better than even the best prize winning banger, even if I do say so myself!

Keep It Simple

After a little experimentation I reckon the simpler recipes are the best, providing you’re using decent ingredients. As we’re not using recovered meat from the abattoir floor as the cheaper commercial sausages are said to do, this isn’t a problem. I’ve not gone all out sourcing organic or rare breed pork yet, just standard pork shoulder from our local butcher.

Stage 1 – Mixing

Mixed and ready for piping

Obviously you need to get all the ingredients together and mix them up ready to go into the skins, the main ingredients fall into five categories

  1. The Meat – usually shoulder or belly
  2. The Binder – usually breadcrumbs or rusk, I’ve always used breadcrumbs
  3. Liquid – water or possibly something more flavoursome like wine or stock
  4. Additional flavours – for example sage is my favourite
  5. Seasoning – I stick with just salt and a little pepper but there are more complex mixes, some come ready mixed

You do sometimes add extra fat, depending on how lean your meat is, but using shoulder and making sure not too much of the fat comes away with the skin, I’ve never needed to and the result isn’t dry at all.

You simply pass the meat, all of it sans skin and bones, through the mixer, add the breadcrumbs and stir about a bit, the same with any added flavours. You can add the seasoning to the water which helps spread it through the mix.

Stage 2 – Skinning up

Handling sausage skins is fairly easy, although they are slippery customers until you get used to them.

Some come already on a tube that can be put straight onto a filling machine but if not, you’ll need to soak then then thread them. Sausage skins need various lengths of soak time, mine are all natural hog casings, which are quite thick so need a good hour.

Once soaked, they’ll be nice and pliable and you can then load them onto your nozzle, you need to run water through the skins to open them up, and help you find the opening

You’ll need to get at least two metres onto the spindle to make a decent length of sausage without having to stop and start too often, which can take a while to load, I try to get as much onto the nozzle as I can fit.

Stage 3 – Filling

This is the stage where the specialist equipment comes in, there are a wide range of machines, ranging from the large commercial ones for meat processors down to small hand-powered minders with nozzle attachments.

I did have a go with a hand cranked model which was kindly bought for me by my parents in law but I was very soon up to my eyeballs in pig, I’d recommend a small powered machine or an attachment for a food processor like mine.

You can’t see the loading tray that fits on top in this pic, but I think you get the idea.

Since filling is very much a two handed job there aren’t any pics of me actually doing this stage, suffice to say that when you try this for the first time, this is the stage where you must have a fit of the giggles because it all looks a bit phallic.

Stage 4 – Linking

Not everyone bothers to link these days, and I haven’t taught myself the proper butcher’s method of linking in threes yet, but here’s how to link in pairs.

You take a length of filled sausage, fold it in half so that there are two lengths side by side, joined at one end.

You twist at the bend, squashing the filling out of the way and twisting the middle around three or four times to make the first division.

After that you go along, choosing the length you want (Mrs) and then squashing the filling back with your fingers to make a small length of empty skin, then you twist both lengths over each other, three times. You twist the first set aways from you, the next toward you and so on so you never un-wist the last pair you’ve done.

Simples.

Chamomile tea

I’ve been growing a lot of different herbs as well as native plants this year and one of my successes is Chamomile. I’ve managed to grow quite a few plants from seed and they are all starting to flower now. The plant itself is quite pretty but I do like a plant that can do more than just look pretty so I thought I’d investigate how to make Chamomile tea.

A quick google search later and I was ready to make my first batch of home grown Chamomile tea. it couldn’t be easier. Just pick a couple of teaspoons worth of flowers per cup, give them a quick wash under running water, put them in cup, add boiling water and leave for 5 minutes. You can drink it with bits of flower in or just strain it to get rid of the flower bits. It smelt and tasted just like shop bought Chamomile tea !

I like herbal teas because they taste nice but if you’re a believer in the health benefits of herbal stuff here are some of the alleged benefits attributed to Chamomile:

  • Chamomile tea boosts the immune system and fight infections associated with colds
  • Chamomile tea relieves muscle spasms and menstrual cramps in women
  • Chamomile tea relaxes the nerves
  • Chamomile tea soothes the stomach
  • Chamomile tea reduces inflammation
  • Chamomile tea improves liver function
  • Chamomile tea helps relieve back pain
  • Chamomile tea helps relieve rheumatism